All posts tagged: contemporary Japan

Eye-On-Criminal-Engravement

Criminal Engravement – A Young Tattoo Artist Challenges the System (Working Title)

Why are tattoo artists getting arrested in Japan? Despite its rich history and tradition that dates back centuries, tattoo is one of the most divisive and controversial issues in Japan. A young tattoo artist stands up for his rights and dares to open Japan’s “Pandora’s box” that exposes a society that is fast becoming an undemocratic totalitarian state. Yamamoto Hyoe is following up his compelling documentary Samurai and Idiots – The Olympus Affair with another feature documentary this time focusing on a case barely being covered in local media. Once again approaching the issue from the standpoint of a Japanese who has also spent most of his life in America, Yamamoto is placing the spotlight on the impact this case may have beyond the reach of tattooing itself. Despite the popularity of Japanese-style body art abroad, tattooing still carries a negative stigma associated with the yakuza and therefore people with tattoos are often stereotyped as not being “upstanding” citizens. The stigma has also carried over into unscientific-like arguments over the sanitariness of people with tattoos which …

Eye-On-Gaika

Gaika (working title)

The principal woman featured in this movie begins showing the initial symptoms of mottled spots on the skin at the age of seven. The onset of stupor beings when she is 10-years-old. She is diagnosed with leprosy at 22 and the following year in 1957 she is separated from her family before being mandatorily quarantined at the Tama Zenshoen Sanatorium. 10 months later she meets a man also quarantined there with leprosy and the two are wed. However, sanatorium rules at the time stipulated the castration of any male leprosy patient who marries another leprosy patient within the facility. The couple have no other recourse but to accept the rule for the sake of their married life together.  Director’s Statement I was very young when I first learned of leprosy. People said “get too close and you’ll be infected by the disease” so leprosy was a very scary sickness for me at that tender age. I became familiar with leprosy in a proper sense in 1999. I was involved as a director of a one …

Eye-On-Danchi-Woman

Danchi Woman

For the past 3 decades 85-year-old Uchikoshi Shizu has been living in the 50-year-old Seaside Road “Danchi” – the Japanese word for public housing – and filling it with a lifetime of souvenirs that have always kept her company. Due to the scheduled demolition of the complex to rebuild them as newer danchi, Uchikoshi and the women in the apartment are faced with problems of relocation and rent. Uchikoshi and her neighbors must say goodbye to their homes, and move into smaller apartments that cannot hold all of Uchikoshi’s momentos. This intimate documentary captures Uchikoshi’s sense of humor and profound nostalgia, as she sorts through relics of her past, choosing which memories she must fit into her new home, and which ones she can let go of. Director Sugimoto Akiko had covered this very same public housing complex in her independent film Seaside Road Danchi Story. Her camera turns its attention on the apartments’ residents as they move out and continue their lives in their new homes. Japan’s aging population has created a number of challenging …

Eye-On-Noise

Noise

8 years have passed since a indiscriminate killing spree occurred in Akihabara. Three lives intersect in this internationally known sub-culture mecca: an underground idol whose mother was killed in that crime, a high school girl living on Akihabara’s streets who has ran away from home due to her strained relationship with her father, and a young delivery man who takes out his frustrations of his mother’s betrayal out on the city. Their respective anguish and emotional conflicts paint a picture of the loneliness and gloom of the people living in Akihabara. Director Matsumoto Yusaku experienced two incomprehensible situations when he was 15-years-old. One was the the suicide of a friend from his middle-school years, and the second was the Akihabara massacre that was shown on television. Noise is Matsumoto’s attempt at linking those two events in his youth by laying bear the light and dark sides of modern society. By some accounts, the movie has been embraced by Matsumoto’s peers as well as earning the praise from critics and festivals at home and abroad. It …

Eye-On-After-the-Exhibition

After the Exhibition

At the closing of his exhibition in the rural city of Mito, local artist Qualia declares “I don’t feel like going home” and loiters around the gallery. His girlfriend and his friends ultimately begin filtering out the door. Then Qualia comes up with an idea. Though shorter than YEAH, at 24 minutes, there is still no less to be digested in Suzuki’s observation about the nature of our interactions with one another depending on the situation. In the case of After the Exhibtion, Qualia–a real-life artist whom Suzuki befriended in Mito–is seen in different lights, when he is at the front of the gallery versus the time he spends in the gallery’s “backyard”. Or in other words, the separation between our public and private selves. Currently, Suzuki is working on his second feature-length, tentatively titled “Abokke” which will also be set in Mito and by all accounts may have already begun shooting.

Eye-On-Yeah

Yeah

Ako, a resident of a housing complex, appears to have some sort of personal problem. As a consequence, she is unable to find her own apartment and has no choice but to keep wandering about the housing complex grounds. Sometimes, she begins speaking with inanimate objects as if they were people–a tree here, a bicycle there, but never people. What exactly is her problem, and where does she intend to go? Suzuki, currently residing in the Ibaraki Prefecture capital of Mito, got together with actress Yanagi Elisa (Capturing Dad, Rolling) and decided to shoot something together in Mito. With the determined support of staff members from his previous movie Ow and newly made acquaintances in Mito, Suzuki was able to shoot this distinctive work which once again looks to be demonstrating Suzuki’s penchant for eccentricity combined with satirical wit as in Ow. This not only makes for fascinating viewing, but simultaneously provides ample food for thought. YEAH world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2018 where programmers commented: “In this politically charged setting, …

Eye-On_Ow

Ow

Suzuki Yohei’s Ow has been one of those movies that seemed to have slipped through the cracks, or perhaps been a bit ahead of its time. After getting made as a 9th CO2 grant movie, it was completed in 2014. Only now, three years later, will Suzuki’s efforts finally see a domestic release. This might be a good time, then, to revisit this unique entry in Japanese indie films in commeration of its July opening in Shibuya. Described as an indie “whatsit” (as opposed to a “whodunnit”), or a blackly comic episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, Suzuki’s movie defies easy categorization. In fact, in their review of Ow, Slant Film used Spielberg and Jarmusch in the same sentence to praise Suzuki’s deft direction as possessing a “Spielbergian flair for capturing how the comforts and discomforts of cohabitation seem to nest within one another, as well as a Jarmuschian taste for mining social alienation for the occasional stray deadpan punchline.” (Chuck Bowen) Having his eyes opened to cinema by the genre movies of David Cronenberg and …